Wine of the Month: Apple Wine

Apple wine, also commonly referred to hard cider, is one of the oldest fermented beverages in the United States. This crisp, sweet wine can be made from fresh apples, apple concentrate, or even apple cider. Even better, October is the perfect time to pick apples from your local orchard. Fall is a great time to make this wine. Read on to find out more about apple wine, along with our exclusive recipe and wine pairing tips.

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Wine of the Month: Pear Wine

Our wine of the month is pear wine. This lightly colored, sweet wine packs in the nutrients given the healthful properties of its main ingredient: pears. In addition to a delicious recipe, we’ve got some useful tips so you get the most flavor out of your wine.

Why should I make pear wine?

Pears are a member of the rose family of plants and are chockfull of antioxidants, dietary fiber, and flavonoids. In fact, about half of the fiber found in the pear can be found in its skin. The phylonutrients contained in this delicious fruit not only contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavonoids, but also contain cinnamic acids that can help prevent cancer and decrease the risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Pears, along with apples, are known to have the second highest number of flavonols among all fruits and veggies.

Now let’s get to the wine part. Due to the fact that pear wine is a fruit wine rather than a grape wine, it has a higher ORAC content. In short, this means that it’s winning the antioxidant game. We’ll cheers to that!

Recipe:

Makes about 5 gallons
20lbs of Pears
10 lbs. of Sugar
1 tbsp. of Yeast Energizer
1/2 tsp. of Pectic Enzyme
3 tbsp. of Acid Blend
1/2 tsp. Wine Tannin
Yeast EC-1118

There are a few things to keep in mind while you’re making your pear wine. For the best results, you should slightly over ripen the pears. This is key, because they aren’t an extremely flavorful fruit by nature. If you don’t let them ripen, the wine will have more of an apple flavor. Let them get extremely soft (without rotting) and you’ll set yourself up for success. Also ensure that you rinse your pears before you crush them.

Where and how can I find pears?

The state of Washington is the largest grower of pears in the United States. It accounts for half of all of the pears distributed in the country, followed by California and Oregon. Most of the pears found in US grocery stores fall into the European Pear category. They can be found in green, yellow, red, gold, and brown. Once you find them at the grocery store, you’ll need to give them a few days to ripen. Just make sure you watch them carefully, because once they ripen, they tend to perish quickly. It can be hard to determine ripeness because many pears do not change color as they ripen.

What foods does pear wine pair best with?

Given pear wine’s light and refreshing taste, it pairs well with bold and flavorful cheeses like blue cheese and goat cheese. Spread some cheese on a cracker and sip some pear wine in between for the perfect pre-dinner snack. As for main courses, pear wine tastes great with white meats, either baked or roasted. Finish off the meal with a fruit or nut-based dessert and you’ve successfully and deliciously paired your pear wine!

Best Environments for Making Wine in Your Home

It is essential to understand where you should and shouldn’t be making wine in your home. The difference between a good and bad batch of wine is dependent on the environment that it ferments in. Wine can be made in any home, but you must be able to find the best possible environment to achieve winemaking success. Continue reading

Ready to Make Your Own Wine? Make Sure You Do These 3 Things Before You Start

Making wine for the first time can often make you feel like a mad scientist. Even when following a recipe step-by-step, uncertainty about the finished product remains. Will it taste good? Did I add enough yeast? How long is too long for fermentation? These are all questions you may ask yourself the first time you make wine.

Perfecting the art of making wine takes practice and several batches. However, there are a few things you can do to make sure your first batch doesn’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Continue reading

What Vineyard? You Can Make Wine at Home

In a world where you can DIY just about anything, why not try wine? There’s a good chance you already have some of the household items tucked away in your pantry. With the right tools, ingredients, and environment, you can bottle up a hefty batch of your favorite vino. Here’s how to get started:

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Other Ways To Seal Wine Bottles

Closures that provide other ways to seal wine bottles.Many beginning winemakers will be happy to know that you do not have to buy a corker to seal your wine bottles. We have other ways to seal wine bottles during the wine making process. Consider the alternatives listed below for your next batch!

When you go to buy wine corks for your wine bottles you will find that most of them require a corker to press the cork into the wine bottle. This is because a new cork starts out much fatter than what you are used to seeing coming out of the wine bottle when decanting.

These are the type of wine corks we recommend using, particularly if you know you’re going to continue to make more wine into the future. But, if you are not sure if you’ll be making more wine, or you just don’t feel like buying a corker, just yet, there are other ways to seal your wine bottles.

Mushroom corks are an easy way to seal your wine bottles without using a corker. They are basically a cork with a plastic grip top. They come both in natural cork and synthetic cork. With some force they can be pushed in by hand to create a tight seal. While they do not seal quite as tight as traditional corks being pressed in, they are more than sufficient for any wine that will be consumed within 12 months.

Another way to seal your wine bottles that does not require a corker is our reusable wine bottle stoppers. Just like the mushroom corks, these stoppers can be put in by hand as well. Their unique design of ridges creates a series of chambers to produce a seal. While these stoppers are not all that attractive for passing out as wine making gifts, they can be covered up with decorative heat shrink capsules to give them a professional look.Shop Heat Shrink Capsules

And yes, you can always use screw cap wine bottles. By using screw caps you will be sealing the wine bottle air-tight, however you must have the right screw cap on the right bottle. Not any wine bottle can take a screw cap; it must specifically be a screw cap wine bottle. And, the screw caps you are using must be the correct size with matching threads. Not all threads are the same.

In summary, you do not have to buy a corker. There are other ways to seal a wine bottle. But, if you plan to continue making wine corks and a corker are your best long-term option.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus

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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Leigh Erwin: Wine Fermentation Temperature

Cellar Craft SterlingHi everyone!

I am very excited to finally be starting some new wines! I ended up purchasing two more wine making kits: the Cellar Craft Sterling California Chardonnay and the KenRidge Classic Nebbiolo. I chose the Cellar Craft Sterling Chardonnay because I have yet to make a white wine using oak chips and I wanted the opportunity to do so. As far as the red goes, I chose the Ken Ridge Classic Nebbiolo because it is a red that did not come with the skins, nor does it use oak. It does contain a packet of dried elderberries, which I thought was a fun change-up for a wine making kit.

I decided to start with the Chardonnay first for no reason in particular. Just like all the other times, I drew off water the night before, just in case there was chlorine in there so it could dissipate. The day of fermentation, I first prepared and added the bentonite solution, then added the wine base. Then, I used about 8 cups of warm water to rinse out the bag.

At this point, I checked the specific gravity with my hydrometer as well as the temperature, which came out to 1.100 and 69oF.

Feeling satisfied with these values, I then sprinkled the yeast onto the top of the juice and loosely placed the lid on top. I decided not to place the lid on tightly or use an air lock because from what I’ve read about primary fermentations, they actually like and need to have some oxygen in order to successfully proceed through the process.

According to the instructions that came with the wine making kit, I was to leave the wine fermenting until at least day 6. So, I did just that.

On day 6, I went to check in on the specific gravity and was surprised to find it had barely moved and was at 1.080. I had forgotten to check the temperature of the wine, but I could feel in the room it was somewhat cool.

See, previously the heat was switching on regularly, as it was late winter and that’s what happens! Around the time I started the Sterling Chardonnay, however, it had actually been very warm outside, so I wasn’t using the heat at all. There were actually a couple of days where it was so hot that I needed to switch on the air conditioning, but didn’t think about the fact that the vents were open in the winery room and while I was making things nice and comfortable in the upstairs living areas, I was inadvertently making things very cold in the basement where the winery room is located.

Beginning to wonder if that had something to do with my ridiculously slow fermentation; I decided to try a couple things to get this wine making kit fermenting while simultaneously reaching out to ECKraus for advice. My next post will follow up more on that.
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Leigh Erwin Bio PictureMy name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.

Introducing The Cork Retriever!

A Cork Retriever DogNo, the Cork Retriever is not a new breed of hunting dog, but it can be just as nice to have around.

A Cork Retriever is a useful tool that any winemaker should have. Anyone whose tried to fetch a cork from inside a wine bottle knows what I’m talking about. You try your darnedest to uncork the bottle, but neither the corkscrew nor the cork feel obliged to cooperate. Instead of the wine cork coming out, it ends up going in.

Not only do you end up with the aggravation of drinking a bottle of wine with a cork floating in it, now you need to figure out how to get the cork out or end up throwing away a perfectly good, reusable, wine bottle.

Whoever said that, necessity is the mother of invention was a genius, and the Wine Cork Retriever is just one more piece of evidence supporting their wisdom.

Shop Cork RetrieverThe Wine Cork Retriever is designed to remove the cork from within the bottle. Now, instead of throwing the wine bottle away, you can rescue it, and use it to bottle your next batch of wine.

The Wine Cork Retriever is easy to use. The three heavy wire prongs go into the bottle and act like a cradle. They spread out as they are pushed in, so you can easily grab the cork.

Once the cork is in the cradle, just give it a tug on the grip handle. As the prongs are pulled out they come together, trapping the cork tightly and pulling it out.

Not only does the Wine Cork Retriever save your wine bottles, it saves you from all the headache. That alone is worth having one sitting around.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

How Sweet it Is: Sugar and Honey in Home Brew Wine

Home brewed wine is a beautiful product that is composed, in essence, of three parts – material selection, method of crafting, and time given for fermentation. With the right wine making supplies, intrepid brewers can elevate their collections beyond store shelf fodder by incorporating their own twists on additives and base ingredients. Wine making kits will come with components such as grape juices, yeasts and brewing containers, but curiosity drives many home brew enthusiasts to think outside the box when it comes to wine kits, researching switches and swaps that make vino truly personal. One of the most common changes is the sugar, or sugar alternative like honey, that is used to feed the yeast that ferments the juice.

Honey: Pros and Cons

Honey is a very complex ingredient all by itself – flower pollens and dozens of sugar compounds like dextrose and maltose are all packed into that thick, sweet syrup we all know and love. The taste of honey can vary widely depending on what flowers the producing hive frequents, giving rise to classic types like wildflower and more exotic varieties like orange flower or elderflower. When incorporated into the ingredients found in wine making kits, honey adds a deep complexity and sweetness to wine that many home brewers find more attractive than sugar, but it comes at a price. Due to the multiple sugars present in honey versus the single compound in traditional wine making sugar, fermentation takes considerably longer. According to home brewing enthusiast and blogger Jack Keller of JackKeller.net, 1.25 pounds of honey can be substituted for a pound of sugar in a given wine recipe, though if all of the sugar is exchanged for honey, you’ll end up brewing a honey wine or mead, rather than a traditional wine.

Sugar: Pros and Cons

Sugar, despite being a relatively simple ingredient, also comes in a wide range of forms that affect the wine it ferments. Traditional table sugar will produce wine that is consistent and familiar, but experimenting with more unique forms such as the blonde turbinado sugar or dark muscavado sugar with its hints of molasses will give your palate plenty to explore. The drawbacks of using sugar is that table varieties may not produce the depth of a finished product that you’d like, and the more exotic forms of sugar may be outside of the price range of beginning brewers. Sugar, however, is an excellent and stable ingredient to stretch your winemaking “legs” with, making it a must-have inclusion in wine kits. Sugar can also be added to a finished wine to sweeten it; rock sugar and bar or caster sugar are the most popular choices for this option due to their respective long and short dissolve times.

If you’re interested in home brewing wine, or are already a fan of the hobby, experimenting with both honey and sugar is the best way to find out which one, or what form of combinations, will work for your needs.

Why are Campden Tablets, Acid Blend, Yeast Nutrients and Pectic Enzymes so Important to Wine Making?

When you first start getting into wine making, you’re going to be recommended various brands of Campden tablets, acid blends, yeast nutrients and pectic enzymes. Before you can make an informed purchasing decision on any of these products, you’re going to need to know what they do in the first place. Here’s a brief rundown of why these ingredients matter:

Campden Tablets

Think of Campden tablets as your wine’s immune system. Campden tablets are used in the making of wine and other alcohols to inhibit the growth of wild yeast and to destroy unwanted bacteria in the wine. In short, these tablets prevent your wine from spoiling. While you do want certain yeast to grow inside your wine, allowing wild yeast free reign is a sure way to ruin your wine.

Acid Blend

Acid blend is actually a generic term; it can refer to anything from a blend of citric acids to a blend of tartaric or malic acids. Every brand will have its own acid blends that can be used to acidify your wine. This is necessary to create a balanced wine.

Yeast Nutrients

Yeast nutrients can help to ensure that your yeast thrives and produces the alcoholic content that you’re looking for. Yeast nutrients can be used to prevent a stuck fermentation, which is what happens when your yeast lacks the nutrients it needs and the wine can no longer ferment. Remember, your yeast is a living thing, and you won’t get the results you’re after if you don’t feed it.

Pectic Enzymes

Pectic enzymes, or pectinase, are a series of enzymes such as polygalacturonase, pectolyase and pectozyme. These enzymes can help to break down pectin. What this essentially means is that it helps to break down the plant matter and get a richer bounty of flavors from the grape, and it can help to break down the cloudy appearance that you see in some wines.

These four ingredients weren’t always used, but more recently, you simply don’t want to make wine without these products on hand to help you get the results that you’re after.

Check out our store for any winemaking ingredients you’ll need for your own homemade wine.